into the grey - an HR Coordinator to HR Advisor piece of advice

This is one of the most common questions I get in interviews, phone screenings and any interactions of HR candidates with 1-3 years of experience. 

The classic ' 'if ‘I had a dollar'', or if Shirley Dievorst and I had $.50c for everytime we helped candidates with this question, is particularly relevant, we would be well on the way to being property moguls - I tell ya. 

It is an important piece of information to start to think about at this 1-3 year mark as it will accelerate your career. You’ve built the groundwork of knowing HR within a business, knowing contracts, awards, triaging issues, stakeholder management and a corporate environment. Now is the time for you to learn the grey. 

HR operates in the grey, not by design but due it’s its human aspect. True HR comes with a strong understanding of the nuance of human interactions and how these interplay within the fiduciary duties of a business and employment law. Employment law is closer to black and white, while how many people do you know that are completely one way or the other?

Performance management, grievances and more ugly ‘he said, she said’ investigations, while no-one wishes for them, accelerate your experience exponentially. They usually require you to understand the law, the business and then the personalities.  

how do you learn grey?

Doing is the best way to learn the grey, however, learning to run before you walk in areas with nuance and law is rarely advisable. Therefore, walking by taking notes, being in the room with  a senior, experienced HR professional handling these grievances, debriefing after this on the next steps and learning the ropes. 

My biggest piece of advice is to have an open forward thinking, future focused, aspirational and honest conversation with your HR Manager or HR BP or HR Director about where your future is headed and where you’d like to be upskilling and upskilled in the future. 

This can be daunting, by handling tricky conversations is the first steps into the grey, if you can’t do this for yourself then advising others with the stakes of the business will also prove challenging. The recruiter in me also says, if you can't have this type of honest communication with your manager then is that the type of environment that is best for you? 

Transparency is key for many aspects in life and being able to accurately display and convey your wants and needs in terms of goals is one of the most important parts of any successful career. 


  • Learning the nuance is important 
  • Talk to your manager about it 

about the author

james hunt - consultant

James has experience recruiting within the professional services and non-for profit industries as well as various private equity companies, priding himself on customer service.

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